Numbers 24: 2-7, 15-17a
Psalm 25: 3-8
Matthew 21: 23-27
After Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his cleansing of the temple of the merchants (Mt. 21: 12-13) Jesus returns to the temple. The priests and elders approach believing that Jesus has not studied with a well-known rabbi nor been sanctioned to preach and asking by whose authority he acts.
Can you imagine the fear and anger the elders and priests felt when Jesus responded by asking whether the baptism of John came from God or man? How could they answer? Acknowledging John’s baptism as divine would acknowledge Jesus’ authority as divine. Acknowledging John’s baptism as coming from man could bring possible stoning from the crowds nearby who saw John as a prophet who referred to Jesus as “Messiah”.
“We don’t know” is a weak response from those responsible for the nation’s spiritual well-being. Their refusal to answer Jesus’ question allowed Jesus to refuse to answer theirs, thereby rejecting their authority to question him.
Am I sometimes like the priests and elders, quizzing or debating? Jesus values a faith that is engaged, generous and uncomplicated. Do I take time to listen rather than speak? And what authority does Jesus have in my life? If Jesus appeared today, would I want to see his qualifications before allowing him to preach? Jesus used his divine authority, not to dominate but to serve. How do I use power? How do I exercise authority; to serve and to liberate, or to dominate and control?
St. John of the Cross spent his life contemplating the mystery of the Beloved. He wrote “in the evening of life we will be examined in love” which is the ultimate authority.